June 9, 2010

Boiled potatoes produce more juice

Put a twist on a popular children's science experiment and you could have an inexpensive source of electricity for the developing world.

Boiling potatoes or otherwise causing their cell membranes to rupture makes them produce up to 10 times as much electricity as raw potatoes when the vegetable matter is used in a simple galvanic battery cell. In a potato battery, the potato serves as an electrolyte linking zinc and copper electrodes.

The boiled potato battery provides electricity at a cost of $9 per kilowatt hour. This compares to $33 for raw potato, $43 for inexpensive D cell batteries sold in developing countries, and $450 for AA batteries sold in developed countries. The boiled potato battery energy cost is primarily the cost of the zinc electrode. The costs of the potato and boiling it are negligible, and the copper electrode is reusable.

The maximum voltage from a prototype was 0.76 V. Boiled potato batteries could be used for off-grid lighting.

Research paper:
Zn/Cu-vegetative batteries, bioelectrical characterizations, and primary cost analyses
Journal of Renewable Sustainable Energy, published online June 7, 2010

Researchers' contact:
Boris Rubinsky

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